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Paint can be used to give a room depth and interest, says Mr. MacDonald. He used blue on the ceiling to create the effect of a domed window.

Stephani Buchman Photography

New luxury doesn't shout, it whispers and if you have the money, you can make it speak your language.

Truly luxurious décor never shouts. Instead, it whispers its presence through the finely turned leg of a hand-made chair, the plush shimmer of silk velvet, or the polished gleam of Travertine marble, according to designer William MacDonald.

As principal of WillMac Design, Mr. MacDonald has been designing high-end spaces since the late 1990's. Over time, he's noticed a change in the luxury market.

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"People were showier then. Now the real meaning of luxury is privacy, he says. "Cocooning was a popular word ten years ago, but now it's almost like people want a gilded cage rather than a nest."

The rise of condo developments with entertainment rooms, outdoor terraces, overnight rooms for guests, full gyms, and separate elevators support enhanced privacy, says Mr. MacDonald.

"You never really have to leave your gilded cage unless you get in the car that is brought up by the valet. Then maybe you go to your country house where the whole thing is repeated on a larger scale."

Feathering gilded nests has become a speciality for Mr. MacDonald, who recently decorated a Yorkville penthouse in which several luxury trends are reflected.

One of the most noticeable shifts, he says, is a movement toward highly personalized and bespoke décor.  While in the past, ubiquitous luxury brands were used to telegraph wealth and status, clients now see décor as a form of self-expression.

In the Yorkville condo, that meant living room décor was driven by a painting that had special meaning for one of the owners, who insisted that nothing in the room detract from it.

Mr. MacDonald choose to create a backdrop of layers of sumptuous fabrics — everything in the room is silk, linen, goatskin or velvet — using the painting to inspire a restrained yet complex colour palette, which is one of MacDonald's calling cards. That, he says, gives the room depth and interest.

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Design elements are tied to the art. The glass doors that flank the fireplace are, for example, tinted powder-blue, and the room behind is painted a shade that echoes the pillows in the living room.

Luxury doesn't, however, always means spending a lot of money, says Mr. MacDonald.  ("Although it never hurts!" he adds.)

"While my clients might be happy to spend $25,000 on a faucet, they are also aware that great pieces are not necessarily the ones with the highest price," he explains.


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Paint can be used to give a room depth and interest, says Mr. MacDonald. He used blue on the ceiling to create the effect of a domed window. Stephani Buchman Photography


This willingness to mix expensive and more affordable items is seen in the front hall entrance, where a very fine demi-lune table sits under a Chinoiserie-inspired mirror that cost less than $1,000.

The door is painted a crisp black, a trick Mr. MacDonald says is a cost-efficient shortcut to a polished look.

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"Paint a door black and you are automatically taken to an elegant townhouse in Belgravia," he says. Similarly, the simple act of installing round moulding on the ceiling and then painting the inner circle sky-blue creates the dramatic effect of a domed window.

Front hall splurges include flooring that combines Italian Travertine and Brazilian marble. "Those are the kinds of things you invest in — the ones that will be seen and get used every day."

The high-low combination is seen again in relatively inexpensive dining chairs. "We chose a finish that looks a little weathered, a bit French country. But we covered the front in Belgian linen and the back in a velvet that has a python (skin) design. When the light comes in, the backs just shimmer."

Luxurious textiles and layered patterns are also played up in the bedroom.  The wall behind the bed is covered in a paper that looks like quilted silk. The lattice pattern is echoed in the decoration on the front of a bedside chest and again in the carpeting.

A heavy, hand-carved walnut bed was painted out in a blue custom designed by Mr. MacDonald, who felt the original dark finish would overwhelm the space. The clients agreed immediately.

"That probably would not have happened ten years ago, when people might have thought the expensive walnut had to be on show," says Mr. MacDonald.

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A willingness to reimagine an old and important piece only happens with confident clients who are comfortable with understatement. For Mr. MacDonald, such clients are priceless.

"To a designer, working with someone who understands the subtleness of luxury is in itself a luxury. It means I can play with the things that are not so obvious — all the surfaces, textures and patterns that make a space truly luxurious."


This content was produced by The Globe and Mail's advertising department. The Globe's editorial department was not involved in its creation.

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